Hierarchies vs. Error culture in companies: 10 tips for top-down management

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Text comes from: Die Macht der versteckten Signale: Wortwahl - Körpersprache - Emotionen. Nonverbale Widerstände erkennen und überwinden (2014) from Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka, Gabriele Schranz, published by Linde Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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An error culture does not only require a clear commitment of the Guidebut also an actual and stable behavioral change.


Here writes for you:


Gabriele Schranz SchranzGabriele Schranz is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG; Vienna - Zurich.


Here writes for you:


Dr. Gabriele Cerwinka cerwinkaDr. Gabriele Cerwinka is a shareholder of Schranz and Cerwinka OEG.


From the author:




What is required of the employee “bottom-up”?

Every employee must react swiftly wherever possible, and not wait and watch the leadership. Errors must be communicated correctly by all participants.

As already mentioned, from our point of view everyone - from the intern and the cleaning staff to the CEO - is required to submit suggestions for improvement.

Follow the steps

It is important that the rules of the game are followed exactly and that no one should pass. Whoever does not follow the given hierarchical levels creates evil blood in the team.

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If the employee detects an omission from his superiors, for example, urgent decisions are not made if he asks for these decisions.

Caution Contaminated Sites!

Even if there are still emotions in the game, it is essential for future professional co-operation to deal professionally with these emotions, so that they do not become a burden.

An “eternal warm-up” prevents and complicates the change initiated.

Specifically formulated

If the error should be raised again, this should be solution-oriented, formulated as neutrally and objectively as possible.

An important insight from our coaching sessions is that the announced measures have to be implemented and documented. Required changes of individuals must be consistently and persistently demanded.

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Efficient suggestion

A certain degree of cross-thinking and scrutiny of rules creates the basis for an efficient suggestion.

Despite a clearly defined procedure in the case of a fault and additional safety levels by a redundant system spirit, all employees need constant attention.

This is the only way a continuous improvement process works Company . Everyone in the company has this responsibility for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of the company, in the spirit of Laotse: “You are not only responsible for what you do, but also for what you don't do.”


The model function is particularly important here: only if the leadership demonstrates the correct handling of errors does it become part of the corporate culture.

The following measures and behaviors require this top-down approach:

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10 Measures for the top-down approach:

  1. Listen closely and observe: The leadership must be vigilant and attentive to first signs of faulty behavior. Only those who recognize the first signs can react quickly. To do this, the manager must pay attention to the reactions of his employees and, if necessary, ask questions without questioning and condemning them.
  2. Rapid reaction: Avoiding decisions and clear instructions in the event of a fault should be avoided. It must be reactivated quickly and comprehensibly. The clearer the guidelines are, the better. In the case of errors that have already occurred, it is necessary to analyze them objectively, to identify the causes and to set the necessary measures for the minimization of damage and to prevent further errors.
  3. Unified reaction of all executives: This is the only way to make the management behavior transparent and transparent for all employees.
  4. Transparent communication: Where there is need for explanation, the guide must not hide behind opaque phrases.
  5. Setting up and adhering to clear rules of play: This management task can only be achieved by the involvement of the employees. Quality standards and possible deviations must be monitored and requested from the top.
  6. Intentiveness in the event of faulty and non-observance of the rules of the game: the leadership acts indulgently against the source of the error, but not against the error-obscurer. Fault culture does not mean to allow indulgence everywhere.
  7. To give employees a sense of backwardness: the leadership proves that it is really serious about the new culture. This is the only way to create a climate free of fear, which enables us to uncover and clarify mistakes.
  8. Creating the climate of trust: The task of leadership is not simply to look away when employees or team leaders are only concerned about their own advantage. It must be a common goal-setting instead of egotistic individual combatants.
  9. Help for self-help: Leadership should always give employees the opportunity to correct their mistakes themselves. It should show ways and support the employees in the solution. To demand change proposals and to contribute to them themselves: Here too, the leadership must lead by example and reflect on proposals as well as accept and think about the suggestions of the employees.
  10. Promoting lateral thinking in a team: The “yes-sager culture” has had its day. The prevailing group opinions and orders from above may also be critically and objectively questioned. Staying factual is often the most difficult job.

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